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Food blogging and food photography has seen a massive increase in popularity as people take their diets and the food they eat more seriously than ever before! This means that food photographers are enjoying a wide range of opportunities, working with major food brands, blogs, food websites, cookery brands and much more besides!
There’s no better way to promote food than by using photography, and as Apicius, the Ancient Roman writer, once said, we taste first with our eyes! When we see a great picture of a food we instantly think to ourselves that we’d love to try it!
However, there is a lot more to food photography than you might think and mastering the art form will require patience, practise and dedication; but once you are on the right path you’ll soon be taking photos that express the mouth wateringly delicious side of the fascinating world of cuisine.
What Do I Need For Food Photography And How Do I Get Started?
If you’ve been thinking about getting into food photography because you love to shoot food, post photos of your dinner on Instagram or just think it would be a fun way to make a living, then there are a few simple steps that you can take to get into the industry fast.
You’ll Need A Camera!
The first thing you need to do is to make sure you have a good quality camera. You can easily pick up a digital camera for between $1000-$3000, depending on your budget. Where possible, you should spend as much as you can on your camera since this will be the most important item of kit you have as you set out to become a food photographer.
Once you have a camera you will need to spend some time learning to properly use the manual controls. This will allow you to make the food look as appealing as possible and give you the confidence to work in a professional capacity.
Practice Shooting Food – Everyday.
Next, you should start practicing every day! Shoot photos of your dinner every night, paying special attention to how you position the food on the plate as well as the cutlery, plates and other items that you are including in the picture.
Try shooting the food in different lights to get a sense of what works best while also trying out new angles and perspectives that best represent the food. Keep on experimenting with different dishes and food types until you start to get some consistently professional looking results.
Build Up Your Portfolio And Set Up A Website.
Once you start to get some good results you can begin to put together a portfolio. You should try to include a nice variety of images that include as many types of foods and styles as possible. The broader you can make your portfolio the more a potential client will be able to envisage working with you!
After you have started to build up your portfolio you should set up a website which you can use as a hub to advertise your services. Make sure your website is easy to use and intuitive to navigate. It’s worth spending a good deal of time on your website so it looks professional and polished because this will be the first thing potential clients see; and clients will often make a snap decision based only on your website!
Make sure that you also link your social media accounts to the website because these are a great way to promote your work and find new clients.
Work With A Food Stylist.
If you’re new to food photography teaming up with a food stylist is a great way to learn the ropes. They will set up the shots and make sure the images look professional, leaving you to concentrate on the technicalities of the photos themselves. You can make an arrangement with the food stylist to exchange their services to you for free photos that you take for their portfolio!
Now that you have a website and good selection of pictures for your portfolio you can start reaching out to potential clients to offer your services along with your rates.
When you are first entering the food photography industry you will have to be a little bit patient and be prepared for a lot of rejections before you start getting successful results. This is completely normal so don’t let a series of rejections put you off from pursuing your dreams; and although it may be difficult at first you’ll have to be determined to break into the popular industry.
When you put yourself out there, use every means at your disposal! Write directly to food blogs, magazines, websites, companies and local restaurants; because the wider you spread your net the more likely you are to start getting positive feedback and landing new jobs. You should also use your social media to promote your work and make connections in the industry.
How Do You Stage Food For Photography?
Planning And Preparation.
Before you start taking photos of food you need to plan and prepare the dish properly. A dish of food should look as fresh as possible so the last thing you want is to shoot images of wilted salad or discolored meat!
The better food photographers always prepare a ‘shot list’ before they get started so they can have all their kit ready to shoot the photos the instant that the food is ready and looking at its very best.
You should also plan the types of props that you will need for the photoshoot, so try to have them all set up before you start. For example, you should have a special set of cutlery and other items on hand so you can quickly put them in place and start taking photos. This will help to reduce the amount of time that the food is sitting on the plate and will keep things looking fresh and mouth wateringly tasty!
Make Use Of Narratives.
It might not seem like you can incorporate a strong narrative in food photography but in many cases you can. This gives a greater depth to the photos and helps to draw in and engage your audience.
When you’re shooting the food you can stage it on a dinner table and even have people in the shot, posing as if they are about to tuck into the food! However, you can also create more subtle narratives by carefully placing an item of cutlery on the plate. This will give the food a more authentic look as well as building the sense of mood in the photo.
You can get a lot of inspiration by looking through the work of other photographers in magazines or food blogs and websites.
Style Your Photographs Carefully – Focus On The Details.
When you are selecting your props and other elements of the photo be careful to ensure that they tell the story you are trying to convey! For instance, if you were taking a photo of a plate of paste then you might want to incorporate a block of parmesan and a grater beside the plate. You could also have a bottle of wine and two glasses behind the plate of pasta.
Equally, if you are taking a photo of a lovely desert a spoon beside the plate will draw your audience into the image and make them want to pick up the spoon and taste the desert – exactly what you want them to be thinking! Always use your imagination and be willing to try new things. For example, you can use flowers and other props to give your photos a lovely fresh look!
Lastly, you should never forget the finishing touches, such as fresh herb garnishes on pasta dishes or a sprinkle of chocolate flakes on a desert. These small details add a huge amount to the image and give the food a more authentic feel to the viewer.
Don’t Overcomplicate The Photos.
When you’re setting up your food you don’t always want to overcomplicate the image. Sometimes, a minimalistic shot can look more luxurious than an excessively complex dish of food!
This also applies to the props, cutlery and plates that you use, which if overdone can distract from the dish itself; and so just like the top restaurants, a simple white plate is often more flattering for the food than an elaborate plate! Generally speaking, you want to try to let the food speak for itself with just a few subtle additions of props and surrounding details.
Should You Use Artificial Lighting?
When it comes to food photography you can certainly make use of artificial lighting but in most circumstances it’s better to use natural light. You can use artificial lights as long as you don’t use overly harsh spot lighting, but in the early days of your career you can rely on natural light.
Always take practise shots before the food is ready so that you can be sure that the lighting is right for the photos. One thing to bear in mind though, is that if you live in a country where the sun is rarely shining then you may be forced to use artificial lighting if the weather is overcast!
Experiment With The Composition.
You will need to carefully arrange the food on the plate, or serving dish, to get good results but you will also need to experiment with the angles that you are shooting from and the way you compose the image in the frame. Some of the most powerful composition techniques which are widely used in photography, including the use of Leading Lines and the Rule of Thirds, are also highly impactful in the food photography genre.
Using these compositional techniques you can place the food in a visually pleasing way within the frame, by, for example, placing the focal points of the image at the central intersections of the grid used by the Rule of Thirds. Don’t forget, you can also crop the images later on in the editing suite to improve their composition within the frame.
You can also experiment with the angles that you shoot the food from. A close up, upwardly angled shot conveys a very different feeling than a straightforward downwards flat lay shot.
How Do You Take Food Photos Without A Shadow?
As a general rule you don’t want your food photography to be crowded with shadows that can make the food look artificial and unappealing. If you’re using artificial lights, be careful not to use overly harsh spot lights. You can use filters to soften the light though if you are using artificial lights.
If you’re shooting using natural light from the window, or other natural sources, then you can use semi transparent curtains to soften and filter the light. If you use a white curtain you’ll have a nice bright light that makes the food look fresh but for a more romantic type of photoshoot with mellower softer lighting you can use a colored curtain to filter the sun, such as thin clothed red or yellow.
What Type Of Lenses Can You Use For Food Photography?
There are several types of lens that work well with food photography.
For an entry level food photographer, a 50mm Prime lens is one of the best choices to get started with. Also known as the ‘Nifty Fifty’, it’s a relatively inexpensive, lightweight lens that is perfect for beginners.
The Nifty Fifty has a nice large aperture, as low as f/1.4, which makes it great for flat lays, overheads and wide shots. The large aperture also helps when shooting in low lighting conditions, such as cafes or restaurants. If you want to crop the images later you can do so in post production.
The other main type of lens that you should consider for your food photography is a zoom lens. A zoom lens is exceptionally versatile and saves you carrying multiple prime lenses instead! Most higher end zoom lenses come with image stabilization as a standard feature. One of the food photographer’s favorite choices is the all round 24-70mm zoom lens. It covers all the focal lengths that you could need and can take much wider flat lay images than your 50mm Prime lens.
Alternatively, if you want to get some real close up shots of the food then you can use a macro lens, such as the 60mm or the 100mm macro lens. These lenses allow you to get super close to the food and, particularly in the case of 60mm, it very closely imitates the natural field of view of the human eye.
How Much Do You Charge For Food Photography?
Depending on your experience and the quality of your portfolio the range of prices that you can charge for food photography ranges from around $100 per hour right up to $500 per hour and upwards.
You will also have to take into account the kind of client you are working with. For example, if you are working with a major corporation or highly successful food website then you can charge anything up to $1000 per hour if you’ve got the experience and skills they are looking for!
If you are a beginner, or just getting started in the food photography industry, then you should probably be charging around $50 to $100 per hour. Obviously, as your skills improve and you build up a larger client base you can start to charge more for your services.
The Basics Of Food Photography – Master The Art And Get New Clients.
Once you get started you’ll be learning fast and soon you’ll reach the upper strata of the food photography industry. With daily practise and a creative eye you can rapidly begin to take fantastic food photos which will impress your clients and have their audiences looking enviously at your compositions!
You will need an attention to detail and the ability to think on your feet while working to tight deadlines. There are many places that you can find inspiration, including food websites, high quality recipe books, blogs and lifestyle magazines.
Food photography is a unique aspect of the lifestyle genre and consequently you should always try to ensure that your photos are aspirational and portray an appealing prospect. More than anything else, this will guarantee you plenty of work and great results for your clients.
Have you tried food photography?